With the top 10 prospects squared away, we move on to the top 20 Cleveland Indians prospects as voted on by the Let's Go Tribe community. The order of the top 10 prospects was a little jumbled but, for the most part, we agreed most with John Sickels over at Minor League Ball. This time, however, we are all over the place, comparatively.
Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus only have top 10 prospect lists, so their rankings will not be taken into account here. Only the prospects ranking according to Minor League Ball will be listed for now, at least until MLB Pipeline decides to update their Indians list.
11. Francisco Mejia (MiLB: 12)
2015 (A): 446 PA, 9 HR, 4 SB, .243/.324/.345, 99 wRC+
Francisco Mejia is the top catcher in our Indians prospect list, and he won a slim vote for the No. 11 spot over third baseman Yandy Diaz. Mejia will only be 20 years old for the upcoming season, his fourth as a member of the Indians. Last year he hit a career-high nine home runs in 446 plate appearances playing in Class-A ball.
12 – Yandy Diaz: A bit of a mystery man, Diaz made perhaps the biggest leap in system rankings for a position prospect, arriving at AAA by the end of the year after competing for the league batting title at AA Akron, and putting himself in the conversation for contributing to the big league club in 2016 after only a year and a half of pro experience. That’s unusual, but the mystery lies more in how he got there. Here, that is. Diaz played youth baseball in Cuba and defected as a college age player, without particular fanfare or expectation. Apparently his father did the same, but Yandy hasn’t seem him since, another mystery. Cleveland took a flyer and signed him, put him into the 2014 spring training mix at a new position, 3B, and then into a starting lineup at high-A Carolina, where he promptly broke his wrist sliding into 3B trying to extend a double in his first at bat. Coming back later in the year, Diaz established his hallmarks: good defense and bat to ball ability, and most importantly, elite plate discipline. Yandy matches Mike Papi’s system leading walk rate, but with half his K rate. Diaz’ consistent triple slash over 780 minor league at bats is .300/.400/.390, which brings us to the mystery the staff is most hoping to solve – for someone with his physical strength and bat control, where is the power? He’s not a slap hitter, but had only 15 doubles in 500 at bats last year. Without it, Diaz can still contribute to a ML club. With increased power, he can be a regular. He is already 24 years old, so 2016 looks to be the year Yandy Diaz sheds some light on what kind of ML player he can be.
12. Yandy Diaz (MiLB: 17)
2015 (AA): 564 PA, 7 HR, 8 SB, .315/.412/.408, 143 wRC+
This vote was not even close. Yandy Diaz won with 60 percent of the vote after narrowly losing out to Francisco Mejia for the 11th spot on our list. Last season, Diaz dominated the Eastern League for much of the year with a 143 wRC+ when all was said and done. Diaz could still be called "under the radar" right now, but as he approaches Triple-A and eventually the majors, fans will take notice. The Indians recently signed veteran third baseman Juan Uribe to a one-year contract, which means the position will be wide open for Diaz in 2017, unless Giovanny Urshela surges in the minors this season.
13. Juan Hillman (MiLB: 8)
2015 (R): 24.0 IP, 4.13 ERA, 3.15 FIP, 19.4 K%, 4.9 BB%
The Indians used their first three draft picks last year on pitchers, one of which was Juan Hillman. The other two, Brady Aiken and Triston McKenzie, made our top 10 list. Hillman only threw 24 innings last year, but he has enough of a reputation from a stellar high school career that scouts have high hopes for his future. John Sickels at Minor League Ball compares him to Justus Sheffield, another potentially great pitcher in the Tribe farm system. I was a little surprised Hillman fell this far.
14. Nellie Rodriguez (MiLB: 15)
2015 (A+): 460 PA, 17 HR, 1 SB, .275/.357/.495, 147 wRC+
Don't sleep on Nellie. Our No. 14 prospect, first baseman Nellie Rodriguez, narrowly beat out pitcher Shawn Morimando for the spot with only three votes separating the two farmhands. He does not quite have the power of a Bobby Bradley (only because very few people do), but he is still another hard-hitting first baseman that could make an impact on the Indians in the near future.
V-Mart Shopper, on voting for Morimando over Rodriguez (and why he will probably get put into a headlock by Nellie):
Went with Morimando because of Rodriguez’s lack of muscle definition.
15. Shawn Morimando (MiLB: 20)
2015 (AA): 158.2 IP, 3.18 ERA, 3.64 ERA, 19.5 K%, 9.9 BB%
I saw several people campaigning for Shawn Morimando as early as the top 10, so he has quite the following on Let's Go Tribe. Morimando is still waiting for a breakout season in the minors, but he has performed well at every level while often being younger than his competition.
10 – Shawn Morimando: A 19th round left handed prep pick in the 2011 draft, I had Shawn at #13 last year, and I’d say he improved his stock by performing very well in his first full year at AA Akron. He has yet to miss a start in 4 seasons as a starter, and has made consistent progress each year, never posting an era above 3.70, and always proving fairly stingy with hits and home runs, having an H/9 ratio under 8 each year, and a HR/9 consistently at .5 or so. But K’s and walks are usually the name of the game for a pitching prospect, and Morimando has never been outstanding at either, which is the reason others won’t rate him as highly. I will say that his K rate actually improved at AA, unlike Ryan Merritt, settling in at 7 per 9. His walk rate remains high, but that is one reason I think his ceiling remains high – with a little more control, he could become a legitimate ML starter, unlike (again) other more finesse lefties that already feature a low walk rate. Morimando is not a soft tosser, hitting low 90’s with his fastball and complementing it with a good curve and changeup. Like Rafael Perez, all his pitches seem to break across two planes, both up and down and left to right, making him a difficult pitcher to make hard contact off of. Added to the 40 man this fall, he was apparently the subject of several trade inquiries recently. I look for him to open again in Akron and finish in Columbus, adding to our depth starters for 2016.
16. Shawn Armstrong (MiLB: 16)
2015 (AAA): 49.2 IP, 2.36 ERA, 1.63 FIP, 38.1%, 12.4%
A tiebreaker was needed to determine which Shawn (Morimando or Armstrong) would be our No. 15 prospect so, naturally, the No. 16 spot was a blowout. Shawn Armstrong already has some time in the majors so his prospect shinyness has worn off a bit, but he could be a future star in the back of the bullpen.
17. Erik Gonzalez (MiLB: 19)
2015 (AAA/AA): 588 PA, 9 HR, 18 SB, .255/.292/.373, wRC+ 70/106
Speaking of prospect shinyness wearing off, here's Erik Gonzalez. He struggled a bit last season, but he would still probably have a future on the Indians if it were not for Francisco Lindor. With Lindor on the team, however, Gonzalez's best hope is a Jose Ramirez type or else he will most likely be dealt as a smaller part of a trade at the deadline.
Andrew Kinsman, in defense of Erik Gonzalez:
Only if you are compiling a list of players called Eric/Erik. Sure, Gonzalez was very disappointing hitting-wise at Columbus but:
1. It was only 65 games — way too soon to be making definitive decisions, especially since by all accounts his fielding was very good.
2. He OPsed a very solid .765 at AA (103 games) and a decent .703 at A+ (113 games), compared to .607 at AA (201 games) and .710 at A+ (126 games) for Stamets.
If Gonzalez has actually plateaued (which remains to be seen), he would at least have clearly done so at one level higher than [Eric] Stamets did. They aren’t in the same group at all.
18. Mark Mathias (MiLB: 18)
2015 (A-): 294 PA, 2 HR, 5SB, .282/.382/.408, 137 wRC+
Mark Mathias does not hit for much power, but an excellent plate approach may be enough to carry him all the way to majors one day. His defense is great or below average, depending on who you ask, but he should be good enough to stick around at second base in the future.
19. Jesus Aguilar (MiLB: 14)
2015 (AAA): 570 PA, 19, 0 SB, .267/.332/.439, 121 wRC+
This may be Jesus Aguilar's last chance to prove he deserves to stick around in Cleveland. After three disappointing stints at the major league level, the 25-year-old needs to show something fast if he gets the call again in 2016. But with the Indians signing Mike Napoli to a one-year deal earlier in the offseason, Aguilar may not even get that chance.
20. Mike Papi (MiLB: n/a)
2015 (A+): 505 PA, 4 HR, 6 SB, .236/.362/.356, 117 wRC+
We round out our top 20 list with Mike Papi, another young player relying on a great plate approach without much power to speak of. Papi struggled to start 2015, but rebounded in large part because of his remarkable ability to draw walks. He finished the season with a 16.0 percent walk rate playing in HIgh-A ball and slashing .236/.362/.356 (117 wRC+).